I’m not easily moved to tears, but Nick Broomfield’s Ghosts did that trick. They were tears of shame. It’s a film that shows that imperialism is alive and well and that the relatively luxurious lifestyles we enjoy come at a high price to be paid by those born into foreign poverty.
These illegal Chinese immigrants did the jobs British people would rather not, for wages British people would not accept. They found themselves in meat factories (and we’re reminded that cruelty extends well beyond our treatment of other human beings); tempted into prostitution; working the land. Always they are treated with contempt.
Just days before 23 Chinese cocklers died in Morecambe Bay I was holed up with friends just down the road in a cottage near Carnforth. It was a cheap weekend away to break the gloom of January’s cold dark end. The days were a little too short and the weather a little foul for us to do much walking and we didn’t bother with the beach for fear of quicksand.
The Chinese cocklers working Morecambe Bay at the time will have paid around £25,000 to be smuggled into the UK in grates at the end of a six month journey. But, of course, they didn’t have £25,000 back in China. They borrowed the cash from unscrupulous money lenders who collect payment from the families they left behind; families dependent upon that foreign income.
Those families remain indebted to the money lenders despite the deaths of their loved ones and must continue to make repayments, often under the threat of violence. At time of writing, the Morecambe Victim Trust Fund has raised £1,306.39 towards the £500,000 needed to clear the victims’ debts. As you dig into your pocket for some spare change, remember how relatively easily you earn your money and how much harder – and more expensive – life would be without the cheap labour of illegal immigrants. Donate online here.